Saturday, June 30, 2012

Free digital camera or video workshops!!

Here's a fantastic opportunity for anyone visiting some of the National Parks this summer.  Free camera or video workshops -- for all skill levels!  And get this...if you don't have your own camera, Canon will let you use one of theirs...FREE OF CHARGE!  Check out the website for information on the locations and dates:  Photography in the Parks

Here's the description as posted on their home page:

Canon and American Park Network are pleased to bring the 
6th Annual Photography in the Parks free digital photography 
workshops to your most popular U.S. National Parks this summer. 
Take part in a photo or video walk with seasoned professionals 
who share their experience taking landscape and wildlife 
photographs and shooting high definition videos using the latest 
Canon digital technology. Learn to improve your photo composition 
skills and tap into your inner artist in some of the most iconic places 
on the planet—from Acadia to Zion.

Bring your imagination--we'll do the rest.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Comic Relief: Funny Titles

A few weeks ago at the cinema, as we walked past a movie poster, my husband read the title aloud,  "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter ... hmmm..someone needs to lay off the late-night snacks!"

It got me thinking about strange or funny movie titles, so I browsed the Internet and selected a few to share. This is not intended as a critique of the films (most of them I've seen--some of them I enjoyed), but just a consideration that these titles might make a person scratch their head, Huh? when first released.

The next one hit me as the funniest, and I added it to our Netflix queue...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bitten by the bug.

Last week we attended two live musical theater performances: A professional production of The Sound of Music at the Hale Centre Theatre, and a youth production of Les Misérables (School Edition) with the Riverton Arts Council.

I used to have a difficult time watching plays... because I wanted to be in them, rather than watch them. I was bitten by the acting bug when I was nine years old.  Our third-grade class put on a little skit and I thrilled at the applause and attention.  I went on to perform in plays while in junior high, high school, college, and then community theater.  At some point I lost the drive to be in plays and began to feel satisfied to watch them.

Perhaps because of my theater experience, one of my sisters gets my chosen career confused.  She eagerly tells people that I am a playwright. I correct her, "No...screenwriter."  Playwrights write plays. Screenwriters write films.

Why am I driven towards writing and filmmaking more so than theater work?  Because although the acting bug bit me when I was age nine, a fascination with movies and the writing bug bit me at eight.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Action!: Practicing Baby Steps

I needed to practice the baby steps, as mentioned in Monday's post.  A year and a half ago I took an on-line course for selling my script.  That's when I was fresh out of school -- raring and ready to go.  The first assignment was to write a query letter, which the instructor would evaluate.

Lesson number one: query letter.  That stopped me dead in my tracks. Thankfully, there were no deadlines for the class.  I can still complete the work.

It seems so ridiculous that writing a query letter could cause such anxiety, especially when it was going to a kind and encouraging instructor whom I selected because of his "you can do it" attitude.  It's not like the letter would shoot down my script or slam the door of opportunity on me.  It was for practice and learning for pity's sake!

Still...thoughts of writing it brought on nausea.

Finally, with the concept of "growing less fearful by taking baby steps" I was able to open up a word document, put a heading with my contact information, address it, and write the first sentence!

GO ME!  (Where's my blankie?  Can I have a pacifier now?)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Take 3: Taken

The movie Taken (2008) is on my personal list of "do not watch again." My husband, on the other hand, loves it. I get it why men (especially fathers) like the movie. They like the thought of being viewed as the hero to their family. Some fathers envision ripping limb from limb anyone who might harm their child. So I get it.

But, here's my gripe: The movie is a prime example of portraying gratuitous violence and sex. Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) tears a path of death and destruction throughout Paris and parts of Europe to save his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). One person. Sure, he rescues another girl, but only to get information from her since she wears his daughter's jacket. I've watched other shoot-em-up, blow-em-up films, but for some reason, this one did not sit right with me. I was all for him finding his daughter, even if it meant leaving a wake of destruction, but I had the hope that he would assist other victims too. I thought of all the unfortunate females whose fathers lacked the skills to rescue them. I think I would have tolerated the film's violence more if he had freed other captives along the way, or at least indicated that he would return to help the other girls.

The girls. Captive and drugged. Here is where the filmmakers crossed a line into gratuitous sex, and glorified the human trafficking problem. I would venture to say the only people who appreciated the scene depicting girls drugged, and chained to their beds in various states of undress, are perverts. What good did that scene accomplish other than to excite those who have no good reason to be excited about such conditions?

I hear so often, "We need to see these things so we know they really happen." Bull-loney. I don't need to see people murdered in order to believe it happens. I don't need to see someone gets their guts ripped out by a shark to believe that it happens. I don't need to see children thrown in a trash can to believe that it happens. 

The scene I refer to did nothing more than exploit and glorify a horrid situation. And for that, I lost respect for the filmmakers, and gained disgust for the film.

What worked: Setting up the situations. They did a good job of showing the audience, beforehand, that Bryan Mills has the skills to take on the horrid gang. We learn that he's retired CIA, and see him in action as he protects Sheerah (a singer on tour). After witnessing the interactions with his daugher, his ex-wife and her husband, we are anxious for vindication. We also learn in advance that Kim is a virgin, which plays a vital part in her survival.

What didn't work: The gratuitous violence and sex; and the milk-toast ending with no hope for anyone else's daughter being rescued. It was as though, "Tough luck all you unlucky fathers who lack the skills to maim, kill, and destroy. Your daughters can rot in their hellish conditions, but, hey... at least I got mine out."

Monday, June 25, 2012

"Block" Buster: Baby Steps

From Fearless Creating by Eric Maisel, Ph.D.:

Naming the reasons why you are presently not creating will not help you change, any more than naming the safety features of an airplane will help a phobic person fly. The solution isn't in naming the excuses but in doing what cognitive therapists call "desensitization through successive approximations." This translates as "growing less fearful by taking baby steps."

The author recommends minuscule exercises. For artists, he says to just squeeze a dab of paint and study it. Don't paint a picture...yet.

Novelists just need to write one sentence.

Screenwriter: Do not start your screenplay. Just picture one scene. Picture it for a few seconds, then let it go. That's all. End of exercise.

I can do that. Even when stuck, or blocked, I can take a small baby step.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Spiritual Thoughts: "Facing the Giants"

A friend recommended Facing the Giants (2006), a faith-based movie. I enjoyed the film and its powerful message. It was refreshing to watch a movie without profanity, sex, and violence. (And I have since watched, and enjoyed, two other films produced by the same people.)

Because it was a low budget film, I expected cheesy acting... and there was a little bit of that... but what impressed me was the genuine emotion of the lead actors. It takes a lot to jerk tears out of me while watching a movie, but the sincerity of the actors really touched me and I found myself bawling.

It's the story of a "losing coach and underdog football team" and how faith and prayers bring about mighty miracles -- on and off the field. In one particular scene, the coach gives a dramatic demonstration of how the power of our thoughts and what we "think" we can (or cannot) do, effects our abilities. That scene really packed a punch and I think of it often. The film has many tender moments, tender mercies, and even touches of realistic family moments and humor.

With that said, though, I want to express my belief regarding prayer and blessings from God. I feel like the movie gave the impression that with enough faith and prayers, people are blessed with everything their hearts desire. By the end of the film, I found myself hoping they would not receive exactly what they prayed for but, rather, have at least one prayer that would seem to go unanswered.

Does that sound cruel and unbelieving? I don't think so. Because I believe God hears and answers every sincere prayer we utter. But, I believe He answers in His own way, in His own time. And sometimes we downright don't recognize the answer. Why? Because...

Sometimes the answer is "no." Well, who wants to hear that? We want what we want and don't want to be told "no" from God. Face it... sometimes we don't want God the Father, we want God the grandfather. We want a being who is powerless against our cries of "pretty pleeeeaaase?" But, He is a loving Father who knows what we truly need and knows what is best...and sometimes the best answer is "no." He is omniscient, all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-wise. He is the Perfect Father, so if the answer is "no," it is for a perfectly good reason.

Sometimes the answer is "not yet." Some prayers seem unanswered because we don't get what we prayed for right away. It might be months, or even years, before the answer arrives. There are times that our hearts are not prepared for the answer until we have matured, or reached a point of spiritual growth where we can recognize or understand. And as I mentioned earlier, He sees the whole picture so knows the best time to deliver the prayed for blessing.

For example, a few months after getting married, my husband and I decided to start a family. He was 27 and I was 23. We weren't getting any younger. Month after month, I bawled my eyes out when evidence proved I was not pregnant. Friends learned not to ask me, "Well?  Are you...?" We prayed and prayed for the blessing of a child, but it was three years before that blessing arrived. During that time of waiting, I matured. I was far more grateful and ready to be a mother.

Sometimes the answer comes in a way that it doesn't seem like an answer. For instance, have you ever prayed for patience but are greeted with crying children and filthy messes? Many virtues that we pray for are like muscles that need exercise. We already have those virtues deep inside, we just aren't using them. When we pray for patience, we think we should suddenly be engulfed with the patience of Job, but instead, He gives us the situations that help us exercise and develop that virtue.

We get it in our heads that answers should come in the way we imagine. I recall a time when I needed to study for a major exam. The week prior was extremely hectic and I realized the only quality time I would have to study would be on a four-hour flight the night before the exam. I hoped and prayed that I would have the proper conditions for intense study on that flight, which in my mind meant plenty of space to spread my notes out (maybe an empty seat next to me) and no noisy people nearby. Well, the seat next to me was indeed filled. And I do mean overflowing...into my space. The large guy breathed loudly through his mouth, and (to put it mildly) stunk to high heaven!

At first I was miffed that my prayers seemed unanswered. I was squished against the window, fighting for air, trying to "find my happy place." I reluctantly pulled out my textbook, notes, and highlighters, and began to pour my thoughts into study... that's when I realized my situation really was ideal. The need to zone out of my misery helped me zone into my studies. I found myself totally absorbed in the things I read, and studied far more intensely than usual. I was happy to study the entire time because it took my mind off my discomfort. The next morning, I passed the exam with flying colors.

As I took a realistic look at how things would have played out if God had answered my prayer in my supposed "ideal" way, I realized I would have tired of studying after a short while and napped instead. Heavenly Father really knows me.

Garth Brooks sings:

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers 
Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs 
That just because he doesn't answer doesn't mean he don't care 
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

So although Facing the Giants was a powerful movie, and illustrated how miracles follow faith and prayer, the filmmakers did a disservice by indicating all answers to prayer come exactly as hoped for. Realistically, we needed to see at least one blessing in "disguise," because often that's when we can clearly recognize the hand of God -- our loving Father -- in our lives.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Comic Relief: Borrowed Lines

Some movie dialogue sticks with us.  Not just the lines we think are clever that we recite and laugh about, but I'm talking about those lines we borrow for our own conversations.

Here are some of our family favorites.

In a tight squeeze?  We mutter, "It's a good thing [I'm] not a big, fat guy or this would be reeeaaally difficult." (The Emperor's New Groove)

Whenever something needs completed super fast, one of us shouts, "Sew! Sew, like the wind!" (Three Amigos!)

Not with the program?  Do or say something silly?  "You're killin' me, Smalls!" (The Sandlot)

"You have saved our lives; we are eternally grateful." (Toy Story 2) For those times of rescue.

When things don't go as planned, we moan, "What a weeeek I'm having!" (Splash)

Times we get caught up in silliness: "No more rhymes now, I mean it!... Anybody want a peanut?" (The Princess Bride)

My husband tends to get confused while driving in "round-abouts" so I tell him, "Stay calm, we are going around the leaf.... this is nothing compared to the twig of '93."  (A Bug's Life)

Feeling tired, dizzy, or just out-of-it, we mimic Jerry Lewis, "I feel very... gling glong.  Thank you." (The Stooge)

And just for fun... "Who wipes?" (Madagascar)

Have you adopted movie lines into your conversations?  Please share!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Action!: Driving

What am I up to? Driving.

There's a group of us that help move cars between car dealerships. A shuttle van takes us to a dealership, then hands us each a key. We drive the car we're given to whichever dealership we are delivering to on that particular run, then the shuttle meets us there and takes us to the next location. It's a small part-time job (about one day a week), but I love it. I love driving different makes and models of vehicles. How does this help me with screenwriting?
  • It gets me out-and-about, beyond the four walls of my office, seeing the world around me, stimulating my senses.
  • I get lots of ideas while driving; it's my traveling think tank.
  • The small amount of money I earn helps to fund my creative projects, plus I'm saving for a screenwriting retreat.
  • The people I work with are great character studies... a few of their names give a clue: Larry and Moe; Bill and Ted; Fifa, and a grown hippie love child named Five. Ted is full of tall-tales. We never know when he's telling us the truth or a story. We suspect the movie Big Fish (2003) was based on Ted. For me, he's the story that got away!

Monday, June 18, 2012

"Block" Buster: Stop Waiting

"Amateurs wait for inspiration.  The rest of us get up and go to work."  (Chuck Close)

What? No more waiting for my muse?  I need to lead, and let inspiration follow.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Movie memories with Dad.

When I think of my dad and his favorite movies, the first one that comes to mind is Follow Me, Boys! (1966). The Disney film starring Fred MacMurray, hit the theaters in 1966, when we lived in a town with one theater (with one screen)... but they showed double features. If it was a popular film, the theater showed it twice in one night. That was the case with Follow Me, Boys!  I sat with some friends during the first showing and then went to where my parents were seated, expecting to go home. But dad loved the movie so much, he requested that we sit through the second showing, and this time I sat next to him, drinking in the moment.

Dad's other favorites can be lumped into two words: John Wayne. I recall coming home after one of my high school activities and finding dad on the couch, watching a television flick.

Me:  What'cha watching?
Dad:  John Wayne movie.
Me:  Which one?
Dad:  It doesn't matter to me, it's John Wayne.

I wish I could share this youtube video with him. It consists of clips from John Wayne movies (the titles don't matter) set to the song John Wayne by Billy Idol. This is for you, dad.  I miss you!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Missed Opportunities

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."  (Thomas Edison)

That quote haunts me.

I am busy and task oriented.  Some opportunities slipped by because I was already overwhelmed with responsibilities and felt like I couldn't handle one more thing.  They looked like more work.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Action!: Extra again.

It's Wednesday.  Time to report on what I've been up to.

Last week I had the wonderful privilege of being an extra for the movie Christmas Oranges (2012). I think I'm still floating on the awesomeness of the experience, which included:
  • Having wardrobe dress me in a beautiful period costume for my role as a "Benefactress."
  • Having a professional do my make-up while I chatted with the daughter of Edward Herrmann. (She was also an extra in the same scene.)
  • Filming a scene with Edward Herrmann, the other extras (Benefactors/Benefactresses), and a cast of talented young actors (the orphans).
  • Meeting Linda Bethers (also a Benefactress), the author of the book (by the same title).
  • Hanging out with Sally Meyer, who wrote the screenplay. (She wrote Life According to Penny... I shared the clip in my post: Success for my friend and mentor!) I could gush some more about her accomplishments, but I will hold back since I hope she will write a guest post after she's done with filming, and catches up on some much needed sleep!
Here's a picture of me, taken with my phone. To see some delightful pictures of the cast (taken by Sally!), click here.

I was thrilled with the dress they selected for me.
How did they know it's one of my favorite colors?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Screenplay: The Da Vinci Code

Tuesday posts are for my "Take" on films I've viewed, and also for screenplays I've read.  Observing what works (and what doesn't) helps me hone my screenwriting skills.

Writing style was the first thing that jumped out at me as I began to read The Da Vinci Code (2006), screenplay by Akiva Goldsman.  I enjoy sentences that reveal heaps in few words, and envy those with the ability to paint pictures with vivid writing.  The first sentence in the screenplay reads: “An old STONE FARMHOUSE sits atop the crest of a grass-covered hill, lights in the windows, smoke a kite from the chimney.”  Whoa, vivid imagery! 

Hooked from the get-go, I continued to read with pen in hand, marking the sentences and phrases that tickled my mind’s eye, such as:  “The sleek jet skims over moonlit clouds.” And… “Both are winded, hands to knees as people pass.  Real life, moving by, giving them barely a second glance.”

I want to write scene descriptions as concise as he does, for example:  “A small room.  Stone floors.  Bed, Bible, hot plate.  Single window open to the autumn air.”  No excess wording there. I probably would have written, “The small room contains a bed against the wall, a nightstand with a Bible, and a hot plate nearby.”  Sheesh, I need to lose the verbiage! 

The succinct writing also moves the action at a rapid pace, adding to the tension that made the script a fast and enjoyable read.

Goldsman’s writing style sparks a desire to read more of his screenplays (A Beautiful Mind; I Am Legend; Cinderella Man; I, Robot).

What works: Vivid writing, concise descriptions, fast pace.

What doesn't work: I can't think of a thing!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Motivation: An artist's need.

"I have a strong need to paint: if I don't paint I cry and get bad headaches."  (Judy Levy)

Sometimes when I struggle, feel lost, or want to cry for no good reason, I realize I am not writing. I need to write. I feel better when I do.

So next time you feel out-of-sorts, take an inventory of your activities, or perhaps the lack thereof. Do you need to write, paint, compose, design, dance? Hop to it!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Comic Relief: Silent Comedy

I decided to share an essay I wrote for a Comedy Film class. This is longer than my other comedy papers (future posts), but since silent comedy laid the foundation for comedy in films, I thought this would be an appropriate start.

Written by Trudy L. Bockoven
Feb. 27, 2008     

Silent Comedy—A Funny Sight to See

Picture two coats hanging from pegs on a wall.  It is not a funny image.  But take those two coats, place a man inside of each, and hang the coats again on the pegs, with the men’s legs and arms hidden from view, and that is a funny image.  It is also an ingredient vitally essential to silent film comedy—visual humor. In many ways, viewing the comedy can be even more entertaining than hearing the comedy.  Consider the party game of charades.  If a person verbally gives clues to the book, movie, or phrase they want others to guess, it is not as funny.  Instead, they must act out the phrase without talking and their wild gestures, expressions, and mannerisms make for hilarious fun.  It is the same concept for silent film comedy—show them, do not tell them. Without the use of language, the audience needs to see what is comical; therefore, the comic actors use plenty of physical comedy such as pratfalls, facial expressions, slapstick, and sight gags.  This is a closer look at the particular techniques that help make silent comedy so laugh-out-loud funny!
PRATFALLS.  Authors Scott and Barbara Siegel describe a pratfall as “…the comic term for landing on one’s hind quarters without injury” (226).  Falling on the rear end sounds easy enough, after all…most of the audience has experienced landing on his or her rump at some point without even trying.  Maybe that is what makes a pratfall so comical—it is funny when it happens to someone else.  The pratfall is not necessarily an easy feat; it takes planning, practice, and coordination to fall without causing injury.  Falling on the derriere gets more laughs than, say, simply falling down.  For some reason (perhaps a juvenile response) the audience has a fascination with the backside of a person’s front and enjoys seeing it landed on, and the more artful the landing, the better.  “Before the coming of sound, physical humor was especially highly prized, and its practitioners, such as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Fatty Arbuckle, were among those who took pratfalls with the greatest comical grace” (Siegel 226). 
Charlie Chaplin uses pratfalls several times in The Tramp.  Early in the film, he walks along a dirt road.  A car passes by causing him to lose his balance and he falls on his behind.  However, his fall does not end on his rear end, instead, the fall continues with his legs flying up and over his body until he is practically on his shoulders with his rump in the air.  It is clumsiness and poetry rolled into one humorous technique.  The audience barely recovers from laughing over his artful fall, when along comes another vehicle causing the tramp to land on his hind end once again.  Although there are many pratfalls in the film, each one is different.  The audience can quickly get bored seeing the same stunt pulled over and over again.  To keep a pratfall fresh and funny, the comedian uses clever ways to “reinvent” the fall.  Chaplin was expert in making each pratfall seem unique.  For instance, another classic pratfall in the film takes place when the tramp lands with his hind-end on a burning hot rock, making his britches smoke as though on fire.  The reinvention pays off with laughter from the viewers.  Pratfalls, when artistically executed, work to set a comic atmosphere.
FACIAL EXPRESSIONS.  Many silent film comedians have almost signature facial expressions.  Consider Stan Laurel with his eyes squinting shut and his face puckering up as though he is about to cry.  Oliver Hardy has a way of staring into the camera in disbelief before smacking Laurel.  The naïve baby-face expressions of Harry Langdon produce laughter too.  Buster Keaton, on the other hand, earned famed for his lack of expression.  “From the very beginning, his persona was the same: the unsmiling stone face.  Keaton had developed his stoic expression very early on in his vaudeville career, noting that audiences laughed when he didn’t smile” (Siegel 153).  A good example of his “stone face” is in the film The General.  Keaton’s character, Johnnie Gray, is a railroad engineer.  A loose boxcar is in front of his engine as he chases Union soldiers.  He looks away and does not see debris (thrown by the soldiers) derail the boxcar.  When he looks forward and realizes the boxcar is gone, his blank expression somehow registers total confusion and amazement.  He is nearly expressionless as he stares ahead in disbelief.  He blinks, looks behind to see if the boxcar is somehow back there, and then looks forward again.  He tilts his head and moves his eyes from one side to the other, still searching for the boxcar.  His lack of expression during that scene creates a very funny moment in the film.  The audience expects a look of surprise or shock; Keaton gives them the unexpected—a deadpan expression—making the scene far funnier.  Facial expressions (or the lack thereof!) are forms of physical comedy.  Words are not necessary when the face expresses the reaction to situations.
SLAPSTICK.  According to Webster’s Dictionary, slapstick is “a stick or lath used by comic performers or characters for striking other persons, esp. a pair of laths that produce a loud noise without causing injury” (1257).  “Without causing injury” are the key words.  Slapstick is the term used for the horseplay and roughhouse behavior within a film that does not cause physical harm.  For instance, a character receives a blow to the head with a mallet, yet receives no injury.  It is physical abuse without the physical harm and it is especially physical comedy.  “Slapstick was as natural to the silent screen as were the action-melodramas and spectacles, and for the same reason: It utilized those aspects of the world best communicated through the moving image, those not requiring the supplement of language” (Wexman 37). 
A scene in The Butcher Boy (with Roscoe C. “Fatty” Arbuckle) gives a great example of slapstick.  The character of Alum (the head clerk) punches Fatty in the stomach, twice.  Fatty then uses his large stomach to punch Alum, sending him into a pratfall with his legs flying overhead.  Slapstick abounds as the scene continues with Fatty pelting Alum (and others) with bags of flour.  Pies are thrown, a small keg hits Alum in the side of the head, the manager smacks Alum with a broom.  It is utter chaos but no injuries occur in spite of the blows to the head, punches to the stomach, and other roughhouse behavior. 
If a person saw someone get slugged in the stomach, or hit in the head with a keg, it would not be a laughing matter in reality; but, in film the audience understands that the behavior is beyond what is perceived as common sense and the viewer feels free to laugh.  It is almost a wicked pleasure to laugh at such antics when the viewer considers the times he or she would relish punching a foe in the face. 
SIGHT GAGS.  Sight gags are visual jokes—“visual incongruities and surprises” (Wexman, 35). In a manner of speaking (pun intended!), the viewer did not need any dialogue to understand the humorous situation.  With no sound in the films, sight gags are a main staple of silent comedy.  Author Geoff King writes, “Where the story outline was developed first in the silent era, it was often adjusted to fit the selected gags…” (31).  Sight gags usually consist of someone or something being the wrong size (or visually incongruent in size like thin Laurel next to wide Hardy), or a person behaving odd for the circumstances they are in, or an object used in an unusual manner.
An example of a “wrong size” sight gag is Fatty Arbuckle dressed as a girl (The Butcher Boy).  It is visually funny to see such a rotund full-grown man dressed as a young girl with hair in ringlets and large feet in Mary Jane shoes!  Another example of “wrong size” is the tramp using a simple watering can to water an entire orchard one tree at a time (Charlie Chaplin in The Tramp).  Many comedians of the silent era also chose “wrong size” clothing for visual humor: shoes too big, suit coat too small, pants too short.  
Strange behavior is visually funny too.  In The General, there is a scene where Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack) behaves very oddly.  She is in a train engine with Johnnie pursued by enemy soldiers.  It should be a very tense situation, yet she picks up a broom and starts tidying the area as though she is keeping house!  Her peculiar actions provide a sight gag since it catches the audience by surprise.  It is unexpected behavior for the circumstance.
Another form of a sight gag is the clever use of an ordinary object.  Using a ladder for a ladder is ordinary; using a porch rail for a ladder is unusual and funny.  The element of surprise creates laughter as Keaton yanks the porch rail off the house and then ascends it like a ladder (One Week).  Also consider this: A dog running is ordinary, but a dog running on a treadmill to grind pepper is visually funny, using the dog in an unusual manner (Luke, The Butcher Boy).
“In silent comedy the gag construction could advance unimpeded:  No pause was needed for lines to be heard and laughs registered” (Wexman 38).  Sight gags of size, absurd behavior, and unusual methods abound in silent comedy.  The visual gags catch the audience by surprise and a surprised audience is a laughing audience. 
Pratfalls, facial expressions, slapstick, and sight gags are techniques of physical comedy used within silent comedy films.  They are successful in creating the comic atmosphere for films without the assistance of language.  What’s more, the effects of physical comedy also work well with sound.  Silent comedy laid the foundation for sound comedy to stand on, and many of the successful comedy films since the silent era manage to combine both physical and verbal comedy. The influence of physical comedy from yesteryears, though termed as silent comedy, still echoes loud and clear into the future of film.

NOTE: I have the citation references, but opted not to publish them along with this post (hopefully making it more difficult to plagiarize in full).  If you would like to know a specific source, please ask, and I will gladly provide the information.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Getting past the need for credit... maybe.

Recently I came across a quote that made me stop and think, "Hmmm."

"There is no limit to what a man can do if he does not care who gets the credit." 

(And appropriate to the quote, I don't know the source, so I cannot give credit to who said it!)

While in school, majoring in Film and Media Arts, I wrote numerous papers that I considered posting on this blog, but I've held back all this time because I worried about someone googling a topic, copying my work, and *gasp* getting credit for it!  But what good are the papers doing if they just sit in my files?  Why not share them on this blog so that hopefully someone will actually read (and maybe even enjoy) my hard work?

So maybe I will bravely post a paper soon.  What do you think?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Action!: Write and Re-Write

What I'm working on: Re-writes.

When asked how many times a person should rewrite a script, my screenwriting instructor answered, "Keep rewriting until you are sick of the script. Then rewrite it again."

That's where I'm at with my first screenplay. I've rewritten and tweaked and polished the script to the point I want to puke. Then I started--for the umpteenth time--to tighten and tweak some more. I got about twenty pages into it (weeks ago) when I hit a wall. I cannot seem to drag myself to the task.

So I decided to take a break from that story and turn my attention (at least for a while) to my second screenplay, ignored and sitting in a box since December 2010. It felt fantastic to open up my screenwriting software and type the title page.

When I originally wrote this particular screenplay, I used Microsoft Word. It was a real pain in the tooshie, but I figured out ways to format it somewhat correctly. Since that time, I purchased Movie Magic Screenwriter, so now I will retype the screenplay (123 pages) into Screenwriter and let it format like magic.

Someone told me, "With Screenwriter, you can import the document from Word," but I don't want to do that. I will retype the entire screenplay, because as I type I will be... rewriting.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Take 2: The Avengers

Tuesday: My "take" on a film.

Avengers assemble!

WARNING: Spoiler alert.  The following post will give away key moments, as well as the ending.

It's hard enough to write a script with one protagonist, so I was excited to see The Avengers to observe how they handled multiple lead characters, portrayed by a strong cast. (Whew. Not a challenge I would take on any time soon!) They pulled it off though, with well-balanced scenes and action.

(I do have to admit I had a couple favorites and enjoyed their screen-time the most... and it had absolutely nothing to do with the eye-candy factor... really!)

Now, on to the antagonist. I like it when the "bad guy" isn't all bad but has some good in him, even if it's just a smidgeon. When I saw Thor (2011) I actually liked Loki (Tom Hiddleston). My heart ached for him as I saw him struggle for the attention and approval of his "father," Odin (Anthony Hopkins).

So call me an optimist, but during The Avengers I never gave up hope that Loki would turn to the good. I thought maybe the pleading words of his brother, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), would eventually soften Loki's heart. And when The Hulk (Mark Ruffalobeat the snot out of him (one of the best surprise comedy moments of the film!) I hoped it knocked some sense in. That expectation was kindled even more when, after his beating, Loki awoke to find himself surrounded by The Avengers and muttered, "If it's all the same to you, I think I will have that drink."

Apparently his turning to the good side was not meant to be... in this film. But, I still have hope! (Please tell me there will be a sequel for Loki!)

What worked: Well-balanced scenes with strong lead characters, and fantastic comic relief throughout. In fact, I found myself wanting to read the screenplay (even though it's not my genre) to see how the screenwriter, Joss Whedon, paced the action, humor, and the characters within the pages.

What didn't work: Sometimes the CGI (computer-generated imagery) took me out of the story. Most of the time it was amazing, but during some scenes the obvious computer images reminded me it was all make-believe... bringing me back to reality.

Trailer: The Avengers (2012)

Monday, June 4, 2012

"Block" Buster: Shifting Adjectives

Is your writing blocked by lack of new images and ideas? Is your vocabulary dial set on same-o, same-o? I recently tried a writing exercise I found to be helpful and fun...shifting adjectives.

Make a list of typical two word -- adjective, noun -- combinations, such as:
  • greased lightning
  • silk scarf
  • red licorice
  • nimble fingers
  • calm sea
  • hot iron
  • broken arrow
  • forked tongue
  • sturdy desk
  • idle hands
Then shift the adjectives down to the next noun (moving the last one to the top) and see what you get:
  • idle lightning
  • greased scarf
  • silk licorice
  • red fingers
  • nimble sea
  • calm iron
  • hot arrow
  • broken tongue
  • forked desk
  • sturdy hands
Shift the adjectives again, if you like (sturdy lightning, idle scarf, greased licorice)...

Or make a new list and start over.
  • smooth ride
  • cold rain
  • barking dog
  • blue ink
  • bouncing ball
  • narrow canyon
  • warm bed
  • crying child
  • rustling leaves
  • wagging tail
Turning to...
  • wagging ride
  • smooth rain
  • cold dog
  • barking ink
  • blue ball
  • bouncing canyon
  • narrow bed
  • warm child
  • crying leaves
  • rustling tail
After making the unusual combinations, take time to seriously consider them. Could you use some in your next story, or poem? What images come to mind? Can you connect them?

I made the mistake of making adjective/noun combinations before going to bed, and then couldn't get to sleep for thinking of the possibilities.  

When the wagging ride of sleep finally overtook me, I dreamt of cold dogs barking ink.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Comic Relief: The Princess Bride

It's Friday...time for some fun!

There are so many wonderful scenes from The Princess Bride (1987) it was hard to select one to share, but this clip has some great lines such as...

"True love is the greatest thing in the world...except for a nice MLT - mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich...."

Miracle Max (Billy Crystal) cracks me up!

So as people head off to work today, or knuckle down to end of the week tasks, I borrow the line, "Have fun storming the castle!"